Horse Life


I’ve gotten a lot of, “When are you moving up?” inquiries lately, and the truth is, I don’t know. Thankfully I have 5 more days to figure it out.


If anyone has any insight on Carolina Horse Park’s Novice course, let me know! I’ve found some helmet cams on YT, but most are from 2015.

See, the thing is, for all the jokes I make, the jumps themselves don’t scare me. What gets to me is how I think Pilgrim will react to them. If my dear horse would just come right on out and say, “Listen lady, I won’t stop at a single thing today,” it’d be GAME ON.

And P has a killer game face.

But sadly, Pilgrim no habla ingles. Now, do I think it’s helpful to walk around a course and go, “He’s going to stop at that, and that, and that…?” Of course not. Self-fulfilling prophecy and all. If I’m unsure, P feels that. He doesn’t know that the REASON I’m unsure is whether or not he’s going to stop, he just knows I don’t feel right. Then he stops. And around and around we go. It’s mental, I know. I’m working on it.


The next horse trial coming up is, on paper, the perfect setting for a move up. It’s a venue we’ve been to twice before, it’s unrecognized, and they have a schooling day the day before where you can jump the exact stadium courses and all of the XC jumps (you can’t jump the XC jumps in order, if I remember correctly).


So why the hesitation?

Number one: Memories

I attended this same show exactly a year ago. And joined a clinic for the schooling day, which still to this day, remains my absolute worst ride on P. The clinician was so critical of P that although I started off defending him (there was A LOT going on, to be fair), I slowly started believing her. She made comment after comment about how “shitty” he was, which really got in my head. Then made some comments about how we should be competing over poles on the ground, when she didn’t know we were in earshot. And the next day, even when P was back to his non-demonic self for the actual competition, she made some more comments about his sanity that rattled me.

Yep, she was really talking about THIS horse. And I let it get to me.

Now, should I have let this virtual stranger dictate how I felt about my horse when she had observed us for a grand total of ONE crappy hour? No. But I was keenly aware that this was my FOURTH time at attempting to move up to BN, not to mention I’d only had him back from the worst-selling-experience-ever for 2 months, so I was a bit fragile. The most awful part about falling off halfway through stadium wasn’t the bruises, the burn from sliding in the sand, or the embarrassment; it was the smug look on her face as I led my horse out of the arena.

Number two: The Schooling Day

The schooling day there can be a bit crazy, which was my main reason for putting P in the 2’3″ division when we went last November. The XC course for the baby levels is separate from the BN+ levels, and sure enough, when we schooled, it was calm and quiet. P’s main downfall is other horses, so when we were there last June, he was totally freaked out when we were in the woods part of the XC course and could hear all these horses, but couldn’t see them. So even though we have the advantage of seeing the jumps before the competition, that could easily be negated by the craziness of the schooling day.

Much better on XC when we’re alone

Number three: ALREADY?

Now, this is how I see other people out there doing things: they train, have success, move up. Rinse and repeat. We have not been so linear.


I’m not saying no one else has issues, but rather sometimes I look back and we seem to have moved at a snail’s pace. I’ve owned P for 4 years, for crying out loud. And I sometimes cringe when I think of it like that. BUT…when I got P he was 4. We didn’t even attempt anything jumping-related until late 2015. Then there were those 3 months I was out with a broken ankle. And the 2 months he was in Aiken to be sold. So in reality, I guess it’s actually closer to 2 years that we’ve been struggling along. Sounds better than 4 years, I guess.


But no matter how you slice it, I’m still used to taking things quite slowly. From 2015-2017, we entered 8 horse trials at the starter level. Of those 8, we completed 6. We were eliminated two times (one because I steered P out of the arena in dressage). So not as bad of a track record as I sometimes make it sound, I admit.

In 2017 I entered two horse trials at BN. The first one ended with the RF, the last one ended on our dressage score.


And we’ve had one go together in 2018- at Windridge at BN where he was great jumping, but felt off while galloping, so I opted to retire.

And then of course, with Trainer B in the saddle, P has now had a successful run at Novice on a tough course in a huge field. And was a total champ.


So is it really too soon? Maybe not.


35 thoughts on “Hesitation”

  1. I think you should go for it! I completely understand your hesitations (sometimes I wish I didnt’ have such a good memory about bad rides and harsh words from coaches) but I think you guys are ready for it and it would be an excellent “eff you” to completely rock out at novice to that clinician who was a cow to you 😛


  2. I think, a lot of times, when you spend so much time laying the right groundwork down, you end up not needing to spend a lot of time between levels. Does P NEED to move up? Nah. COULD he? probably. Do you WANT to? I guess that’s the question.


    1. Well, really, no one NEEDS to move up 😂 The higher you go, the more expensive the entry fees are!

      It was just interesting to me- 2 years at 2’3” (though when I actually sat down and counted out the # of competitions we’ve been in, it’s really not a lot), then 2 events at BN and that’s it? Where are my 2 years at BN? Is that not a thing? 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha I think I watched about 100 stadium rounds while scribing this past weekend. The jump from BN to Training (in stadium) was pretty mild compared to the jump from starter to BN. I think that, as long as it’s within your horse’s ability, there’s no massive difference between BN and N.

        Granted. I have never gone N. So I am probably not one to listen to 😂😂😂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re spot on about the BN to Training differences vs Starter to BN! In stadium for BN to N, for example, the difference is one IPHONE, height wise. That’s what I tell myself if something looks big. But we’ve been schooling N/T height with B, and P could care less about height.

        It’s really just the XC. BN jumps tend to be plainer, more simple jumps. Novice is where they like to add in more decorations and weird shapes, and that’s what P struggles with. He’s fine with rolltops/coops/logs, etc, but jumps with cutouts and lots of filler he gets pretty insecure about. He was like that in stadium also, but at home and at B’s we’ve been working a lot over weird fillers and it’s paid off. We just don’t have a ton of XC experience!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. good luck figuring out your best choice! what does trainer B say about it? seems like he might be your best resource here, considering he just competed the horse. personally i like to know with a high degree of certainty that i’m ready (me, specifically — not the horse. doesn’t matter to me in the slightest if the horse is “ready” if i don’t feel confident in my own ability to make good choices and handle whatever may come).

    so i spend a lot of time ahead of a move up working on that preparation – in the saddle and mentally, and also in basic info-gathering like walking as many courses as i can. plus i like to have a really really solid serious outing in recent memory that left me filled with excitement and confidence. in your shoes i’d be thinking about doing one last hurrah at BN where i could recreate that amazing feeling you had from your last full run last year – as a way to really capitalize on how P’s feeling after virginia, and to also clear up any lingering feelings of uncertainty or hesitation. but, lol, i’m also prettttttty conservative in these kinds of choices so ymmv 😉


    1. Trainer B is all about the Novice, but also said that (obviously) it’s up to me. We can school N, then compete at BN. Which is sort of what I was leaning towards at first anyway, since I’m also super conservative.

      But I’m fairly certain this is the only unrec HT on the schedule this year, and due to that and the format where you can school before, I think that makes for an ideal move-up horse trial. Rather than at something recognized, at a new venue, where he doesn’t see beforehand that a certain jump won’t eat him.

      I also thought about going off on my own (like I did to go BN last December) to move up. Sometimes not having anyone with you (no family, no trainer) makes it even less stressful!


      1. yea i mean, i think you’re thinking about it the right way. lots of good options here and nothing really sounds like an obviously bad choice. just a matter of figuring out which circumstances are going to make for the best experience good luck figuring it out! and like Sara said, maybe a little xc schooling experimentation is just what the doctor ordered 😉


  4. No matter what you decide, maybe instead of looking at a jump and thinking “He’s going to stop here” it would help you mentally to say “Even if he peeks at this, I’m NOT going to let him stop here.”. Then you’re changing your expectation immediately from failure to success, just by changing the wording. And sometimes that’s the difference between staring down and dropping your shoulders vs sitting up and keeping leg on to the base.

    You’re more than capable of riding him the way he needs, and he’s more than capable of doing it. Have a little more faith in yourself! Ride like you’re a badass and like your horse is a badass… before you know it, you’ll both be badasses.


  5. Any chance you can get out to a xc schooling at novice height before having to decide? Go and treat it like a competition and run through the course first without him seeing the jumps and see how you do? You know P can do it and you know you can do it. Sounds like the question is if you two can do it together right now. Carolina will be there again. If it feels right to do it this year then go for it. You’ll put P first as you always do and can pull up if needed. If you aren’t sure then wait. Go school and choose another venue


    1. I was going to see if I could find the time to get him out to a close-ish XC course that we’ve been to a lot for schooling. Carolina will always be there, you’re right!


      1. I think I am heading out to xc with Eeyore on Friday and you are more than welcome to come, but it will likely be a whole lot of figuring him out and P might not enjoy that too much.


      2. Stoneridge which is in Anderson so probably a solid 2 hrs for you. Meeting at 8 am. They have a lot of fences from poles on the ground through training level and told us they’d have water in the complex. I think another girl is coming too and you would be a welcome addition to the outing if you think it’s worth your trip. You know Trainer and she will work with your need to just go do a course and or start and stop at each fence.


  6. I prefer to hesitate myself, but I think you should go for it. Levi has issues with other horses when we’re doing XC schooling. I have to plan around no other horses being near us. It’s a PITA. Maybe you could school at dawn or dusk and avoid the crowds?


    1. That’s what I was thinking. We’re going up Friday night so if we could be out super early, we might avoid the crowds.

      Does Levi get all magnetized towards other horses? P’s weird- he doesn’t care about horses he doesn’t know, but group schooling (where he knows he’s in a group), is super annoying.


      1. Levi looses his gd mind if he’s in a group schooling. He will literally start squealing and leaping through the air. He’s less bothered by horses schooling off in the distance of the course, but if he thinks he’s “with” another horse/group and they do a jump and he has to stand still, he will flip out.


      2. Boo, that’s no fun at all. P is sort of the opposite. The horses in the distance really concern him. And taking him away from whatever group we’re in to go jump a jump usually requires lots of sideways movements.


      3. Leaving the group is equally problematic to Levi. He thinks distant horses are something to look and scream at, but usually can be made to look at a jump instead. Any horse he has bonded with is a bond for life and he’ll throw me under a bus to be with them instead. Bonding can take < 2 minutes.


      4. 😂😂😂😂 P is the same way if he trailers with a horse. It’s like a civil ceremony was performed and now they’re legally married


  7. Firstly, I don’t think anyone should call anyone’s horse shitty! What a non specific and unsupportive term! Anyway that’s my rant.. I think that you should move up when you want to and not before; I’m a bit of a go with my gut person, but also never let the opinions of someone else hold you back. I used to do that and I kept a horse in walk / trot Dressage getting 75% because I was told his canter was crap! Silly me
    Also “lions don’t care for the opinions of sheep” so forgot what others say and trust yourself.
    I totally think just from reading your blog you and P will do what’s right and when it’s right, so if P is happy then give it a go!
    Mel x


    1. Ha, I would never say that to someone else either, even if I was thinking it!

      And ha, I’m a super perfectionist also and was pretty much under the impression that I needed to be winning before moving up!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. ok! Here’s this virtual stranger’s advice. A) That clinician is a piece of shit and can you tell me who it was so I NEVER ride with them? B) Skip the schooling day. You don’t need bad shit going on the day before a show. I never have a LESSON the day before a show cause guess what, it’s ALL I remember. Not the 100 other hours leading up to the show. C) Sometimes, ok lots of the time, I ride BETTER to the jumps I think will be a problem. So, maybe seeing jumps you’re worried about can inspire you- and help you remember what you need to do to get him over them? Just some thoughts… Oh! Also, if you move up and have a stop or God forbid fall off, its ok! At least you tried and you will have so many more rides at this level, it’ll be forgotten soon enough. Clearly P is comfy at the level and safe!


    1. It’s not someone who travels so I think you’re safe 🙂 I was thinking about skipping the schooling day for that very reason, or asking B to school him. We have an agreement that he’ll ride my horse before every horse trial (he did it once last year, then I won so now it’s a thing 😂) anyway.

      So true about it being ok to try and fail. Really I don’t worry about falling off or anything- just refusals. Because of how that was such an issue last year, I take each stop way harder than I should. But even ULRs have stops- doesn’t mean that they should be dropping down to the starter level! 😂


  9. I feel you a whole lot here… ESPECIALLY when it comes to the lack of linear progression.

    It feels like a constant yo-yo and when you hit highs you’re almost waiting for “the next thing” to come set you back.

    But from my (admittedly limited) impression of you and P as a combination is that you are WAY more capable than you give yourself credit for.

    Sure, he’s not cookie cutter and he’ll make you work for it but compared to where you started just look at what you’ve achieved!

    I say, give him the shot at redemption. And if the schooling day is too much there’s no rule saying you can’t pack it up and not partake 🤷🏼‍♀️


    1. Exactly like a yo-yo! But sitting down and writing this made me realize we really have come such a long way.

      I don’t give us enough credit, and tend to focus on things like, “Yeah, sure we jumped around a 3’-3’3” course just now. But did you see me get left behind at 1 of the 10 jumps?” 😂🤦‍♀️

      And ya, it’s a schooling day and a schooling show. Not the Olympics!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. do what you want to do. If i go Intro the rest of my life so be it. Saying that you can totally do Novice. And if not this year you have next year. Do what feels right to you (and P) but i know you are a badass and so is your horse 😉


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